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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 18th May 2020

News Highlights

Denmark reports zero deaths as India numbers surge past China

Denmark, the first European country to start reopening, reported no coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, from a day earlier, for the first time since March 13. Meanwhile, India has now surpassed China in total coronavirus cases to become Asia's new hotspot.

Summer is back again

Italy is set to reopen bars, restaurants and travel in and out of the country, which will be permitted from next month. The foreign travel ban will be lifted from June 3 and people entering Italy from EU countries do not have to undergo a quarantine period.

Extended lockdown in Madrid and Barcelona

Residents of Madrid and Barcelona, still under lockdown, have been unable to join the millions of their compatriots in Spain who have celebrated the partial lifting of their lockdown by meeting up with friends and family, or visiting their favourite cafe, or bar, for a drink.

Cases surge in Brazil and Saudi Arabia

Brazil, now only trailing the U.S. Russia and UK in total coronavirus cases, added almost 15,000 cases on Saturday, while total cases in Saudi Arabia topped 50,000. Saudi Arabia has been seeing an average daily increase of about 2,000 cases a day for the past week.

Lockdown Exit
Greece Reopens 500 Beaches as It Relaxes Lockdown Rules
Greece has opened up 500 of its beaches as the country eases lockdown restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities authorized the move as a heat wave was expected to hit the country this weekend. But sizzling temperatures aside, the measure is seen as a crucial test of readiness for Greece’s biggest challenge: summer tourism. From early Saturday, sunbathers swarmed beaches across the country, taking cool respite from scorching temperatures and over a month-long period in lockdown. Yet as they entered ticketed facilities a new reality set in. Sun loungers at many sites were seen hammered down, fastened to the ground to secure social distancing. Kiosks were not allowed to play music and bars were prohibited from serving alcohol -- all for the sake of keeping crowds sober and orderly.
Denmark reports zero coronavirus deaths for first time since March
Denmark, the first country in Europe to gradually start reopening, reported no coronavirus-related deaths on Friday from the day earlier for the first time since March 13. Denmark’s total number of confirmed cases rose by 78 to 10,791 since Thursday, with the number of hospitalisations falling by 10 to 137. The death toll remained unchanged at 537. “Milestone today: In the last day we have had 0 deaths as a result of COVID-19 in Denmark,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Twitter. On Tuesday, health authorities said Denmark was “very unlikely” to be hit by a second wave of the virus, as the country entered its second reopening phase, which allows schools for the oldest children, shopping mails and restaurants to reopen.
Indonesia’s government was slow to lock down, so its people took charge
A veteran organiser, Diani took matters into her own hands. “I had trouble convincing people in my neighbourhood at first. People still thought we were untouchable because of the weather or prayers or whatever else. I had to convince them one by one, through WhatsApp and in person, that we needed to change our lifestyle because of COVID-19,” she said. “Eventually they understood.” By early March, Diani had mobilised a task force of volunteers to effectively close off her neighbourhood, persuade residents to stop working and stay at home when possible, and propagate hygiene practices such as handwashing. The volunteers even started making their own hand sanitiser, and initiated a neighbourhood-level “self-quarantine” on March 10— ten days before the Jakarta governor declared a state of emergency, Diani noted, proudly.
S.Korea races to contain new Covid-19 cluster linked to clubs as infections swell to 119
South Korea conducted more than 15,000 tests on Wednesday (May 13) as health officials raced to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 linked to at least nine clubs in the nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul. The promise of anonymous testing has encouraged more people to come forward, as the number of cases linked to the new cluster grew to 119 - up from 102 the previous day. New cases include a 27-year-old clubber from Busan who infected his 62-year-old father and one-year-old nephew. Eleven infections were traced to a 25-year-old private academy teacher from Incheon and three more infections in the military brought its total to 11. South Korea now has 10,962 cases, with 259 deaths. The Itaewon cluster came to light when a 29-year-old resident of Yongin city tested positive on May 6, after visiting five gay clubs in Itaewon on May 1-2 during a six-day-long weekend that saw many people going out to wine, dine and party.
India surpasses China in coronavirus cases to become new Asia hot spot
“It is becoming increasingly clear that Covid-19 will not disappear immediately, the economy will need to be managed alongside persistent infection risks, possibly for a prolonged period,” said Mr Rishi Sahai, managing director of financial advisory company Cogence Advisors. He said that the 130 districts classified as red-zone districts at present are some of the most urbanised and industrialised parts of the country and account for 41 per cent of national economic activity and 38 per cent of India’s industrial output. “Finding methods of keeping these red-zone districts operational and safe would be critical in keeping economic activity sustainable,” he said.
Exit Strategies
Labour leader Keir Starmer calls for `four nations together'" approach for easing lock-down restrictions
Labour leader Keir Starmer has called for a "four nations together" approach for easing coronavirus lock-down restrictions. Mr Starmer, who became party leader last month, said there had been an "incredible sense of solidarity" across the UK but the relationship between Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland "could" be put under strain if there was an increasing divergence in approaches from the respective governments to coronavirus. Mr Starmer was speaking on the BBC's Politics Wales programme one week after British Prime Minister Boris Johnston told people in England that they could "drive to other destinations" for exercise and leisure, during a live broadcast. In Wales, the Welsh Government re-stated people cannot travel "a significant distance" from home for exercise. The Labour leader blamed Mr Johnson for the way Wales and England had diverged in the easing of the lockdown. "I do think responsibility for that lies very largely with the prime minister, who I would have hoped could have got all the ducks in a row before he actually made his speech last Sunday," he said. "The sooner, frankly, we get back to operating as four nations together the better," he said.
Coronavirus: Italy set to throw open its borders in time for summer tourist season
Italy will reopen restaurants and coffee bars next week and allow travel in and out of the country next month as it continues to ease its coronavirus lockdown. A decree signed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday means that the foreign travel ban will be lifted on 3 June - and people can also start moving freely across the country's regions on the same day. Mr Conte said that anybody entering Italy from an EU country from then onwards would not have to undergo a quarantine period. However he warned that while the Lombardy region could assess itself whether to reopen, the national government could intervene if the pandemic reemerged.
Austrian borders with Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary to reopen June 15
Austria’s borders with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary will fully reopen on June 15, the interior ministry said on Saturday, extending an easing of border controls to its eastern neighbours previously agreed with many of its neighbours to the west. The announcement follows a previously coordinated step to fully remove barriers on travel between Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein from June 15 onwards and ease restrictions on who is allowed transit in the meantime. Restrictions remain in place for transit from Italy.
Irish Government approves first phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions from Monday
The Irish Government has approved the first phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions from Monday. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the easing of restrictions on Friday, but said the announcement is not cause for celebration. He said from Monday, the public will be able to meet small groups of four people outside while keeping two metres apart. Mr Varadkar also urged the public to wear face coverings when on public transport and in enclosed spaces.
China, S. Korea Ask Japan to Allow Business Travel, Yomiuri Says
China and South Korea have consulted Japan about easing border controls on business travelers to help revive business activities, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Sunday without citing sources. The idea, already implemented between South Korea and China, would allow a fast-track entry of business people if they test negative for the new coronavirus before departure and after arrival, the newspaper said. But Tokyo is cautious about relaxing border controls at this point due to fears of another spike in infections, as well as a lack of test kits for travelers, according to the report. Japan’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Germany plans 57bn euro aid package for virus-hit municipalities
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is working on an aid package worth 57 billion euros ($61.65 billion) to help municipalities cope with plunging tax revenues caused by the coronavirus crisis, a ministry document showed on Saturday. Europe's largest economy is facing its deepest recession since the Second World War, even as a lockdown to fight the virus is gradually eased. The drop in business activity has hit tax revenues and left a hole in municipal finances. Scholz's aid package aims to help cities and towns stabilise their finances, according to the finance ministry document seen by Reuters. The plan also contemplates extra relief for some heavily indebted municipalities.
Anger in Madrid but calm in Barcelona at extended lockdown
For the past five days, millions of people in Spain have once again been able to indulge in moments of luxury that would have been mundane routines just two months ago. Across half the country, they have been able to meet up with friends and family, and to sit outside bars and sip a café con leche or a cold, refreshing caña (beer). But not so in Madrid or Barcelona. On Friday the Spanish health ministry denied the Madrid regional government’s second request to join the 70% of the country in the next phase of relaxation of some of the strictest lockdown measures in Europe. Since it denied permission for such easing last week, people in and around the capital have been unable to meet up or enjoy a physically distanced alfresco drink or meal.
As Europe emerges from lockdown, the question hangs: was Sweden right?
The one table that glares at us daily is the international league table of deaths per million. Even if the aggregates are unreliable, there is a crude reality to a body count. Yet the only conclusion to be drawn from the figures is that the league table is no help to policy. There is no correlation between fatalities and lockdown stringency. The most stringent lockdowns – as in China, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and Britain – have yielded both high and low deaths per million. Hi-tech has apparently “worked” in South Korea, but so has no-tech in Sweden. Sweden’s 319 deaths per million is far ahead of locked-down Norway’s 40 and Denmark’s 91, but it’s well behind locked-down UK’s 465 and Spain’s 569.
Coronavirus: How 'overreaction' made Vietnam a virus success
"It very, very quickly acted in ways which seemed to be quite extreme at the time but were subsequently shown to be rather sensible," says Prof Guy Thwaites, director of Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, which works with the government on its infectious disease programmes. Vietnam enacted measures other countries would take months to move on, bringing in travel restrictions, closely monitoring and eventually closing the border with China and increasing health checks at borders and other vulnerable places. Schools were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. A vast and labour intensive contact tracing operation got under way. "This is a country that has dealt with a lot of outbreaks in the past," says Prof Thwaites, from Sars in 2003 to avian influenza in 2010 and large outbreaks of measles and dengue.
Thailand follows Vietnam with no new coronavirus cases
Thailand reported zero new confirmed COVID-19 cases for the first time in over two months on May 13.
Partisan Exits
Experts Doubt Mexican Government’s Claims on Falling Curve
A former health official and a group of Mexican researchers say the fresh numbers suggest the curve is still on an upward trajectory. With one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates in the region, hospitalizations in Mexico may well be the better bellwether for gauging the scope of the pandemic and when it’s safe to reopen. Those numbers are grim. In the nation’s capital, at least 76% of all hospital beds are occupied, and 63% of ventilators are in use, Lopez Gatell said Friday. That’s up from 58% on April 29. More than a quarter of all coronavirus cases are concentrated in Mexico City
Continued Lockdown
Brazil Overtakes Spain to Be World’s Fourth-Most Infected Nation
The country added 14,919 cases, according to government data on Saturday, bringing its total to 233,142. It trails the U.S., Russia, and U.K. The numbers exceed those in Spain, which has a total of 230,698 cases and is planning to extend the state of emergency for a fifth time to combat the outbreak. Brazil’s new cases come as Vice President Hamilton Mourao and his wife are in self-isolation after a civil servant he came into contact with tested positive for Covid-19, according to a note sent by his press office. They are awaiting test results, which are expected on Monday.
Mexico's president pushes back on government forecast coronavirus could impoverish millions
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pushed back on Thursday against a government report that forecast the coronavirus pandemic could drag millions of Mexicans into extreme poverty in Latin America’s second largest economy.
Covid-19 Outbreak in Nigeria Is Just One of Africa’s Alarming Hot Spots
Dozens of doctors are infected and gravediggers are overwhelmed in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, where inaction led to an unchecked outbreak. Across Africa, other hot spots are emerging.
Kenya closes borders with Somalia, Tanzania to curb COVID-19 spread | English.news.cn
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday closed the country's borders with Somalia and Tanzania effective midnight as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. Kenyatta banned the movement of persons and passengers in and out of Kenya through the Tanzania and Somalia borders for 21 days following the rise of cross-border COVID-19 transmission. "In the last week, we have witnessed increased imported cases among individuals crossing into the country through our borders. These areas have become areas of grave concern," Kenyatta told the nation in a televised news conference in Nairobi. He said all drivers of the cargo vehicles shall be subjected to mandatory COVID-19 disease testing and will only be granted entry into the Kenyan territory if they test negative.
Saudi Arabia's coronavirus cases top 50,000: ministry
The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia topped 50,000 on Saturday, the health ministry said. A ministry official reported 2,840 new cases, taking the cumulative total to 51,980. That was up from an average of around 1,500 new cases a day over the past week. The death toll in the kingdom increased by 10 to 302, the official said on state TV. Saudi Arabia recorded its first COVID-19 infection on March 2, several weeks after the initial outbreak in Asia.
Saudi Arabia's coronavirus cases top 50,000: ministry
The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia topped 50,000 on Saturday, the health ministry said. A ministry official reported 2,840 new cases, taking the cumulative total to 51,980. That was up from an average of around 1,500 new cases a day over the past week. The death toll in the kingdom increased by 10 to 302, the official said on state TV. Saudi Arabia recorded its first COVID-19 infection on March 2, several weeks after the initial outbreak in Asia.
Mass testing won't happen in Mexico. That's the way the government wants it
Mexican health officials believe the outbreak will peak in this country no later than May 20, though some studies suggest it could arrive in late June, even as the country has one of the lowest testing rates in the world. "I don't think testing is a must," Lopez-Gatell said when asked if the country could re-open safely without more tests. "This doesn't mean we're resistant to testing, we will use testing but in a carefully planned manner." As of May 11, Mexico had only conducted 89 tests per 100,000 people, according to health ministry data. By contrast, the US tested at a rate nearly 32 times higher than that, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
No beds, packed morgues: Mumbai hospitals near collapse in war against coronavirus
Packed morgues, bodies in wards, patients forced to share beds and medical workers run ragged: Mumbai's war against coronavirus has pushed the Indian city's hospitals to breaking point. Ravi, 26, had to change his mother's diapers himself as she lay dying from the disease in the huge Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, better known as Sion. "They would just give us medicines and leave," Ravi (not his real name) told AFP. Staff in the 1,300-bed facility were "overworked and tired", he said, with sometimes three patients per bed.
South African platinum miner Impala finds 19 coronavirus cases at mine
South Africa’s Impala Platinum said on Saturday it had detected 19 positive cases of the COVID-19 disease at its Marula operation in northern Limpopo province, and that it would close the plant until it had taken necessary health measures. “Implats has identified 19 positive cases during the week, all of them asymptomatic. Of these cases, 14 were identified as the result of proactive testing of employees returning to work. None of these employees had started work at the mine,” the firm said in a statement.
Zimbabwe to maintain virus lockdown: president
Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Saturday the lockdown imposed to control the spread of coronavirus would stay in place for the moment, but would be reviewed every two weeks. The restrictions have so far borne fruit as transmission has not been widespread and numbers remain lower than had been initial projections, he added. From more than 25,000 tests conducted, the country has so far detected 42 cases, four of which proved fatal. Mnangagwa said the World Health Organisation had classified coronavirus transmission in Zimbabwe as "sporadic, with one or more cases imported or locally detected
Brazil: Coronavirus pandemic reaches dozens of Indigenous groups
The coronavirus pandemic has hit 38 Indigenous groups in Brazil, raising fears for populations that have a history of being decimated by outside diseases. "The virus is reaching indigenous territories across Brazil with frightening speed," the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples' Association (APIB) said in a statement on Friday.
Coronavirus - Kenya: COVID-19 and lack of protective equipment threaten lifesaving care in Kenya
MSF teams too, however, crucially rely on the availability of PPE to protect patients and staff from the risk of infection. The global shortage of protective material may force even MSF to shut down our programmes – including emergency, lifesaving activities – if a reliable source of PPE is not rapidly found. This happens at the worst possible time. While the number of reported COVID-19 cases has remained relatively low so far, it is expected to increase, and so risks doing the number of indirect victims – those who couldn’t access essential medical care for other types of medical issues. With the rainy season approaching, the seasonal increase in respiratory disease is expected to make the situation even more challenging.
Coronavirus: Are African countries struggling to increase testing?
African countries have started to lift lockdown restrictions, raising fears that coronavirus infections could rise. The World Health Organization has said countries should consider their ability to test and trace before lifting lockdown. The continent has so far conducted 1.2 million tests since the start of the epidemic. But is that enough?
Mexico at 'peak moment' of coronavirus crisis after biggest daily rise in cases
Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell - an epidemiologist and Mexico's coronavirus tsar - described this as "the most difficult moment of the first wave of the epidemic". He said that the country "could not relax measures" in place to stem the spread of the virus, and instead needs to embrace a "new normal" to avoid another wave of infections. On Monday, some key industries - including mining, construction and automobile assembly - are scheduled to partially reopen. Mr López-Gatell stressed that the re-opening of these industries will be largely preparatory, with a broader restart of businesses not scheduled until 1 June. Government data released on Thursday also showed more than half of hospitals in the capital, Mexico City, were at capacity with coronavirus patients.
Hundreds die in Yemen of suspected coronavirus
More than 500 people have died over the past eight days in southern Yemen’s main city, Aden, many with breathing difficulties, raising fears the coronavirus is spreading out of control, feeding off a civil war that has left the country in ruins.
'The ship is sinking': Bolsonaro battles to block foul-mouthed cabinet video
“This meeting is the perfect portrait of the Bolsonaro administration,” said Bruno Boghossian, a columnist for the Folha de São Paulo newspaper in Brazil’s political capital, Brasília. “Conspiracy theories, ideological issues, made-up battles, and culture wars – all right there at the heart of government.” The video of the supposedly private plenum on 22 April was unexpectedly thrust into the public domain by the resignation of Bolsonaro’s justice minister, Sergio Moro, two days later. Moro says the images contain key evidence supporting his allegation that Bolsonaro tried to meddle in federal police business and must be released as part of a supreme court investigation into those claims. The footage was privately screened for investigators this week but has yet to be made public. Even before its release, however, the video is casting a profoundly embarrassing, and potentially compromising light on Bolsonaro and the far-right administration he has led since January 2019.
Stigma, fears of quarantine hinder Kenya's COVID-19 fight
Mass testing for the novel coronavirus is under way in the worst affected areas of Kenya. But many are reluctant to be checked, for fear of being forced into quarantine. There is also a stigma attached to the virus and the disease it causes, known as COVID-19. Al Jazeera's Catherine Soi reports from the capital Nairobi.
Taps run dry in Kenya's capital as coronavirus spreads
Heavy rains swept away the main water pipes running through forests in the Aberdare mountain range north of Kenya’s capital a week ago. Soon after that, the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company shut down a treatment plant feeding the city. Now huge swathes of Nairobi, from its slums to its well-heeled districts of Lavington and Kitisuru are struggling with little to no supplies, at a time when the government is ordering people to stay put and keep clean. “Will we deal with water shortage or the coronavirus? How can we survive without water when we are being told to wash our hands?” asked Wanjiru, a mother-of-two who also needs water to wash the vegetables she sells on her stall.
Mexico’s Cartels Distribute Coronavirus Aid to Win Popular Support
Mexico’s drug cartels are in a war for the hearts and minds of poor Mexicans, providing them with food and supplies as they struggle to survive the economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Since the coronavirus struck Mexico, a plethora of videos and photographs uploaded to social media have shown what appear to be cartel operatives in about a dozen states handing out food packages marked with the logos of the different criminal groups to lines of Mexicans. In some cases the videos show the food being distributed by heavily armed men, driving in military-style trucks with cartel markings.
Coronavirus: Morgues and storage rooms are full of bodies. The true death toll in Mexico City is staggering
The number of people dying from the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico is five times higher than official government figures, according to health department insiders. A Sky News investigations team working in the country's capital Mexico City has documented cremations and funerals and gained access to morgues and storage rooms full of bodies - all indicate the official data is wrong. In much of Mexico City, the second largest city in Latin America, there is virtually no social distancing, with open air markets and some businesses operating normally, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Scientific Viewpoint
Breakthrough hope as doctors find blood-thinning drugs can help save Covid-19 patients
Doctors at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London have found that most critically ill coronavirus patients suffer blood clots, raising hopes that blood-thinning drugs could save lives
More than one million people infected with covid-19 in Mexico
Mexican scientists specializing in mathematics, statistics, and infectious diseases warned that there could be up to 25 times more cases of Covid-19 in the country than those confirmed by laboratory tests. This would mean between 881,000 and 1.27 million people infected, many without symptoms but with the capacity to infect. The data come from estimates made by scientists consulted by EL UNIVERSAL. Alejandro Macias, considered the expert on the H1N1 epidemic in 2009, when he was the National Commissioner for the Prevention and Control of the SSA, explained that until laboratory tests are carried out to look for antibodies in people’s blood, as was done in New York, it will not be known precisely how many people were infected with Covid-19.
Reviving the US CDC
According to The Washington Post, Deborah Birx, the head of the US COVID-19 Task Force and a former director of the CDC's Global HIV/AIDS Division, cast doubt on the CDC's COVID-19 mortality and case data by reportedly saying: “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust”. This is an unhelpful statement, but also a shocking indictment of an agency that was once regarded as the gold standard for global disease detection and control. How did an agency that was the first point of contact for many national health authorities facing a public health threat become so ill-prepared to protect the public's health?
French boy dies of coronavirus-linked Kawasaki disease
Nine-year-old from Marseille had been ‘in contact with’ virus before dying in hospital
Voluntary collective isolation as a best response to COVID-19 for indigenous populations? A case study and protocol from the Bolivian Amazon
Voluntary collective isolation as a best response to COVID-19 for indigenous populations? A case study and protocol from the Bolivian Amazon
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and adolescents with COVID-19
Recently, however, reports from Europe and North America have described clusters of children and adolescents requiring admission to intensive care units with a multisystem inflammatory condition with some features similar to those of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Case reports and small series have described a presentation of acute illness accompanied by a hyperinflammatory syndrome, leading to multiorgan failure and shock.13-15 Initial hypotheses are that this syndrome may be related to COVID-19 based on initial laboratory testing showing positive serology in a majority of patients. Children have been treated with anti-inflammatory treatment, including parenteral immunoglobulin and steroids.
Yet another study shows hydroxychloroquine doesn't work against Covid-19
A new study -- the largest of its kind -- shows that hydroxychloroquine, the drug touted by President Trump, does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems. The study was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It follows a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn't fight the virus. Even before these reports were published, the US Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health issued warnings about using the drugs for coronavirus patients.